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History of photography

Updated Friday, 24th June 2005

A very brief snapshot of the development of photography

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Dennis Healy
There is disagreement between the French and the English as to exactly when photography was invented and by whom, but William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) is widely acknowledged as the ‘Father of Modern Photography’ following his invention of the positive/negative process in 1840.

Fox Talbot made the first surviving photographic negative on paper in Britain in 1835.

The technique is the basis on which photography is based today also the way texts and images are transferred on to books, magazines, newspapers.

Roger Fenton is generally regarded as the first successful war photographer. His work in the Crimean War in 1855 was partially funded by the War Office and began to de-glamorourise warfare.

He was a lawyer by training and only began studying photography in the late 1840’s and eventually went back to law in 1862, however, he was one of the main people who tried to get photography recognised as a fine art.

Although he was ostensibly an amateur he was one of the founders of the Photographic Society of London.

Having studied under Man Ray at the end of the 20’s and produced work covering documentary pictures to landscapes, nudes, and portraits of the famous, Bill Brandt (1905-1983) is now recognised as the master of British photography. He is most famous for his style of surrounding his subject in shadow and was influenced by European surrealism and the British romantic pictorial tradition but he also took photographs of Britain during the Blitz.

Further reading

The Birth of Photography … 1800-1900
Brian Coe

The Origins of Photography
Helmut Gernsheim

Photography - A Concise History
Ian Jeffrey

The History of Photography from 1839 to the Present
Beaumont Newhall

The Picture History of Photography
Peter Pollock

History of Photography
Peter Turner

Young Meteors: British Photojournalism 1957-1965
Martin Harrison

The Story of Popular Photography
Edited by Colin Ford

Family Photographs: Content, Meaning and Effect
Julia Hirsh

Inside Amateur Photography
Dave Kenyon

Say Cheese: The Snapshot as Art and Social History
Graham King

For a comprehensive list of books on all aspects of photography from equipment to conservation go to the National Museum of Photography, Film, and Theatre website



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